Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and the founder of Nutritious Movement. She is the author of several books including Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and her most recent collection of essays, Movement Matters. In today’s conversation we’re talking about the ecology of movement. How does your movement affect not just your health but also humans everywhere, even ones you’ve never met, and how does it affect the health of the planet as a whole? We discuss the real impact of our sedentarism and our drive for convenience, and how movement can be a very profound and impactful form of activism.
For the final episode of season 3 Bo Forbes turns the tables and interviews me, Brooke Thomas. Bo asks me her own questions as well as those submitted from listeners (thank you!) and we cover a lot of ground. If you want to hear about my personal path with my body, how learning through the podcast changed the way I see all bodies, how I parent based on what I've learned, my current practices (particularly in natural movement and somatic meditation), and what the road ahead looks like tune in.
Bo and I spoke at length and below are the questions that were asked. The circuitous route that ensues after a question was asked is hard to capture so...
- What’s your earliest memory of being in your body?
- The sense of being different can be an impetus for innovation or a life sentence- how did that go in your life?
- What stands out as key moments bringing you into this work?
- What did your healing journey look like?
- How and why did you start Liberated Body? What was the intial vision, how has it changed, how has the practice of doing it changed you?
- From Rebecca M: "1) You mentioned you had health issues and became really good at eating crackers on the bench while others were involved in activity. When did you realize that you had crossed over from sedentary to a true lover of movement? 2) What were some of the obstacles you had along the way and how did you solve the problems?"
- Bo "The idea that the body should be or should do... it can give people imposter syndrome. Sometimes we just have to step into our place. Often the tipping points we experience are small and subtle, yet the world often conditions us to look for these big momentous transformations.
- From Patrice N “I know that your curiosity (at least I think I know that) and some physical issues brought you to looking more deeply into embodiment as a topic - but now, after this time of exploration - can you say something of the value you've gained from working with embodiment practices? Often, students/clients don't get what or how an embodied existence enriches the experience of being human. They seem to think that if they simply feel "no pain" things are fine."
- From Jill Miller “What do you do for your non-negotiable daily self-care?”
- From Kristin W "Your mention of the Meditating with the Body program, inspired me to check out Dharma Ocean. The result is that I have been meditating on a daily basis for the first time in my life! The Dharma Ocean approach of deeply grounding in our sacred bodies has changed my life in a short few months. I would love to hear about your experience with it."
- Luna E “What are your movement actions/daily/weekly/monthly? and how have you dealt with or have you had any injuries?"
- Natalie “With all the info that you gather how do you discern what to practice for yourself?”
- Marita “Who or what has changed your way of thinking about your body?”
- John S “In season 3 we’ve heard from some fabulous researchers. I know there is so much that can be learned through the lens of science. At the same time, I sometimes question how suitable science is for learning about the embodied experience. Science is necessarily based on objectivity and reductionism, while our embodied experience is inherently subjective and holistic. Given these differences, what do you see as the promises and pitfalls of research into the embodied experience?"
- Julie F “1. Given that body and mind is not separate, and this speaker's discussion has implications for body, mind, and life practices - I would like him to expand that more. Also how he practice the line in his life. 2. Do you have 'play list by theme', also for women..since I don't see too many women in your talks."
- Ana Maria “I want to know how all the body nerdery has impacted what you're teaching or practicing with your son?”
- Kathleeen L "Anderson Cooper' recent comment about his massage therapy experience has incited much conversation in our profession. I have been inspired by his experience that negative emotions can be massaged into the body. For the past few days, I have been asking my clients to share a happy, positive thought as I address their area of concern. For example, I had a teacher with tight shoulders. I prompted her to talk about why she got into teaching and her favorite memories as I massaged her upper trapezius. Is there any research or theory to support the idea that positive or negative thoughts can affect muscles in this way?"
- Cathy H “How do you metabolize this incredible world of questions and discovery and constant emerging-ness that the podcast invites us into? Everything I believe to be true is only the case for a moment in time and sometimes I feel that what makes me feel curious and alive also makes me feel a touch overwhelmed.”
- What will you be up to in the off season? What projects are next?
Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, joined me for a conversation about his latest book, Natural Born Heroes. We talk about this remarkable story of a band of resistance fighters on Crete during World War II, how they contributed to toppling the Nazi occupation there, and the amazing local Cretans who taught them about their tradition of the hero.
Christopher doesn't stop at these remarkable people however, he asks what makes a hero and how can we all be heroes?
The book dives into some of my favorite body nerd subjects; We talk fascia, Parkour, natural movement/MovNat, low heart rate training, burning fat for fuel, and how we can all rise to the occasion by studying the way of the hero.
- How the bizarre story of a group of freedom fighters who wanted to kidnap a Nazi general led Chris to the question, "What makes a hero?"
- Crete as the birthplace of the hero: they didn't believe heroes were superhuman at all- they wanted the million (rather than the one) to be the hero.
- The ancient Greek definition of compassion.
- Chris got interested in fascia (and studied with Tom Myers and Robert Schleip) when he realized that all the best trainers were interested in fascia and its elastic recoil properties.
- How important Chris thinks Parkour is and why he even describes it as crucial medicine in this day and age.
- Natural movement has to be universal- it does not discriminate between the sexes.
- How the difficulty with monetizing things like natural movement or Parkour is the reason we keep forgetting and remembering it every 50 years or so.
- How Barefoot Ted introduced him to Erwan LeCorre of MovNat.
- University of Michigan Study "Your Brain in the Woods vs. Your Brain on Asphalt" and its findings
- Erwan LeCorre's insight as to why staring at a screen makes us so tense and anxious.
- Low heart rate training and burning fat for fuel- how did a bunch of amateurs behind enemy lines accomplishing intense endurance athletic feats- with very little food- manage to fuel themselves?
- All effective things are simple and easy to follow.
- What's stayed with him in his personal practice.
Chris says that if he could boil down the book to two words they would be, "Be useful." This week let's embrace our inner hero by just noticing how in our daily interactions we can be most useful.
The Heroes Tour aka "The Hero Cabaret" (see if it's going to be near you!)
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Erwan LeCorre, founder of MovNat, explains what natural movement really means: it is the movements our ancestors have been doing throughout the history of our species, but which are now often voluntary and not required for daily life. He explains how we’ve become a lot like Chihuahuas, why only doing as much as you can do well trumps brutalizing yourself in your fitness regimen, and how natural movement heals.
What does natural movement mean? The movement skills that our ancestors have been practicing in the world since the dawn of human time- balancing, walking, climbing, running, lifting heavy things, jumping, throwing, etc.
Some people may ask, "We don't live in that environment any longer, so why would I do all these things?" It's not about mimicking our past. If there is anything that happens right now- right here right now- that requires you to sprint or carry somebody for example- are you prepared?
Also we are meant to move. Our culture makes us believe that it is optional, but it is a biological necessity. The people who move less have a lesser quality of life and of health.
Today children are often discouraged to go outside or take risk. Nobody is going to grow strong and healthy in that kind of environment. We need nature and we need movement- a lot.
As a kid he was encouraged to go out a lot. He could disappear into the woods for hours. His father would come with him and encourage him to do things he couldn't tackle on my own, and he never ceased to value this type of movement.
He enjoyed my experiences of specialized sports, but never stopped thinking about an approach to lifestyle that encouraged natural movements.
All physical education in Europe 200 or 300 years ago were all based on these practical movements.
Mobility drills are a part of the MovNat drills- the movement and mobility don't have to exist separately.
You want to stop thinking of "exercise" that it's a chore. That lazy people don't do it, but if you're good you do it- your weight training, and your cardio training, and your mobility.
But you want to think of what makes up the bulk of your physical activity every day. The same way supplementation on top of an unhealthy diet, movement supplementation, i.e. exercise, won't work if the bulk of your movement is physical idleness every day.
Your mobility, strength, cardio, balance, etc will all fall into place. You don't need specific drills for specific needs. The reason you lack mobility isn't because you don't do yoga, it's because your daily life lacks natural movement. The reason you lack strength isn't because you don't work on the weight machines at the gym, it's because you aren't sprinting and lifting heavy things.
Potential has never been lost- if you recreate the movement environment it will come back.
What are zoo humans?
It is a metaphor. Some people are insulted by it- a different metaphor would be that we're farm animals, or domesticated animals. We're a little bit like pets. All dog species come from the wolf, which means the Chihuahua and the wolf are related. The Chihuahua would die within hours or days in a wild environment. We are fabricating a form of a "human breed"- we are to our ancestors what the Chihuahua is to a wolf.
It's not about giving people a hard time- but it's an observation that most people have become alien to the body and are in a state of physical neglect.
You cannot live optimally if your body is abandoned.
Have you seen people use MovNat to recover from injuries or pain or to get off of the path of the downward spiral?
We have a lot of people who have been through a lot of therapies, but who got great results from re-creating their natural movements with MovNat
This isn't to say that professionals aren't important- but any therapist cannot do anything for you if you don't remove the cause of your problem. Many physical problems stem from a lack of movement.
Even people who are physically active have become specialists- they do one type of movement, and that is going to create issues down the road.
Lifestyle behavior [movement] needs to support any therapy you are getting [for pain, injury, etc].
"You can only do as much as you can do well"- MovNat is a method, meaning that it's not about going into nature and trying to just jump off stuff and break your legs.
A method means you are going to learn essential movement efficiency principles that include position, posture, timing, tension, relaxation, and techniques.
A lot of people realize that they have been neglecting their body, and that is a healthy awakening. Unfortunately, a lot of people want fast results and they are ready to brutalize themselves to get in shape in a matter or days or weeks. And that is completely delusional. You can't reverse the effects of physical idleness that quickly.
It's important that you understand mindfulness, and gentleness and kindness to yourself. Your body is not a machine, it's you. And you only have one. It is not to be mistreated. It's about listening to your sensations. You want to be patient and you want to understand that it's a process.
Movement is more than just something you have to do- it's not a chore. It is an expression of who you are. It is a biological necessity.
Don't expect instant gratification when it comes to how you look on the beach. But do expect instant gratification when it comes to happiness, a sense of freedom, and a sense of well-being that comes through movement. You can have satisfaction right now.
MovNat places a great emphasis on movement quality and efficiency through the teaching and the acquisition of techniques. Even if you have the most powerful computer, but you don't know how to use the software, then your computer is useless. If exercise is just about exerting yourself, you don't learn anything. You need to learn movement skills. You need to develop physical competency for the real world.
At the same time, without physical conditioning, skills alone won't do it. We emphasize technique, but also strength and cardio conditioning that require intensity. But only on the basis that the movements are still efficient.
If you want to get into natural movement right now, today, Erwan recommends that people go to the local playground and watch the movements the kids do, try to see if you could do the same. Also check out the Movement of the Day on MovNat (in resources).
Erwan is currently currently watching his 16 month old son and watching his development and movements stage-by-stage. He's also always exploring the basics. Natural movement is so broad, he never stops rediscovering them. For example, in walking the other day, just refreshing his perception when he does the simple movements.
" He quotes Gray Cook: "We are meant to grow strong and age gracefully. Reclamation of authentic movement is the starting point."
Head to the playground! Watch kids playing in their un-self-conscious ways- no reps, no 'exercise as a chore'- and see if you can get on the equipment and move like they are. (As always, within the range of what is an option for you physically right now.)
Movement of the Day, or MOD, on MovNat